In the next step towards its goal of bringing self-driving cars to market, Google will be placing a few of its prototype self-driving cars on the roads of Mountain View, Calif., this summer, as the company writes on its blog. Google just got approved to send the petite two-seaters on public roads, with the company’s “safety drivers” on board, writes AJC.com.
The company’s Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses (all modified with sensors) have been tested on public roads, writes Jeff Ward-Bailey for The Christian Science Monitor, but the custom-built Google prototypes have only been tested on closed courses until now. The prototypes are equipped with the same software that the self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs use, Google writes. And the Lexus fleet has logged nearly one million autonomous miles on roads since the company started the project, Google notes. The company says that all of those miles, in addition to the 10,000 miles a week that its self-driving cars have been covering, are the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American driving experience.
The prototype Google self-driving cars’ top speed is what Google calls “a neighborhood-friendly 25mph.” In Google’s six years of testing, its self-driving vehicles have been involved in 11 car accidents — all minor ones, as AJC.com writes. Chris Urmson, director of the Google Self-Driving Car Project, told Jeff Ward-Bailey that those accidents were all caused by drivers of other cars hitting a Google self-driving vehicle, and in some of those accidents, the Google car was stationary at the time.
Google’s cars have logged a total of 0.64 accidents per 100,000 miles driven, Ward-Bailey writes. “The national average is 0.38 accidents per 100,000 vehicle miles, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than half of such accidents go unreported, meaning that Google likely has better than average safety stats,” Ward-Bailey writes.
Google hopes that its self-driving auto technology will help make driving safer, pointing to the statistic that 94 percent of all car accidents are caused by human error. Self-driving cars could also offer mobility to elderly drivers or those who are unable to drive a car themselves. And eventually, self-driving technology could allow for more efficient traffic flows and less time wasted sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
So far, four states (California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws related to autonomous driving, according to cyberlaw.stanford.edu. Other states have considered or are considering laws governing autonomous driving as well. In Colorado, proposed bill SB 13-016 was indefinitely postponed, according to cyberlaw.stanford.edu.
The cyberlaw site says this about the postponed law:
Defines “drive” and redefines “driver” in the vehicle code, establishes conditions under which a “person may use a guidance system to drive a motor vehicle,” permits the use of a wireless telephone when using such a guidance system, provides that “[t]he driver is responsible for any damage caused by a motor vehicle being driven by means of a guidance system to the same degree as if the driver were manually driving the vehicle,” eliminates following distance restrictions for a vehicle being so driven, and directs the “department” [of revenue or of transportation?] and the state patrol to submit a joint report by August 30, 2018.
Finally, for those wanting to plan for the day when they get to ride in a self-driving car, David Wagner, writing for InformationWeek, provides a road trip playlist. He writes:
10. Drive by the Cars. Not only is it a good song, it answers the question Rick Ocasek and the boys have been asking for decades: Who’s gonna drive you home tonight? The answer: Google.